Omari Richins – Student Spotlight

richens_omari_headshotOmari Richins is a second year campus MPH student in the Public Health Management and Policy concentration.

What is your name?
Omari Richins

What is your concentration/specialization?
Public Health Management and Policy

What public health areas are you most interested in?
I am interested in improving community health through the lens of the social determinants of health. That being said, I would ideally like to decrease disparity by increasing health equity between different populations. My goals though not fully visualized just yet, will be manager or director position in a community health/public health organization.

What did you study in your undergraduate career or post-graduate career prior to beginning the MPH program?
I majored in biology (pre-professional track) with a minor in chemistry in my undergraduate at the University of Tampa.

What first prompted your interest in public health?
Interestingly, I had no knowledge of the public health field prior to searching for graduate school programs. However after my first two weeks of courses in UF’s MPH program, I became deeply passionate for the public health field. I initially started the MPH program hoping to continue onto medical school afterwards, but I have decided to stay in the public health field because I have developed a passion for wanting to improve the health and lives of communities rather than individuals.

What interested you in the UF Public Health program?
I was interested in UF’s Public Health program because of the supportive staff and the many internship sites and public health opportunities afforded being in Gainesville. I liked that the program was structured in a manner that enabled me to intern/work while studying (which has benefited me greatly) while also having the flexibility to take a few courses outside of my concentration.

What has been the most impactful course you have taken at UF? If you cannot identify one–what is a lesson or message that has stuck with you?
There have been many courses that have been impactful to me especially since I was had no knowledge of the public health field before beginning my MPH; my first term courses set a really strong foundation of knowledge that I was able to build upon during my time in the MPH program. That being said, the most impactful course for me was Comparative Healthcare Systems (HSA6930). I took this course in my last semester of coursework and it allowed me to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of many different health systems around the world. This was great because it allowed me to apply knowledge from other courses to critically analyze and understand the health systems of many countries. Additionally, in this course I had to present individually five times and in a group of two once – this helped me to fine tune my public speaking and presentation skills. I was also able to research and create a comprehensive health system analysis for my home country of Trinidad and Tobago as my final paper – which truly was fulfilling to do.

What has been your favorite/most memorable moment in the program? This does not have to be academic–examples include connecting with a professor, working on a research project, volunteer work, etc.
My most memorable moment in the program was being accepted into a 1-year community health fellowship at the Mat-Su Health Foundation in Wasilla, Alaska. This moment was truly a culmination of all the hard work I’ve done coupled with the support of both faculty and my internship sites, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity that would not have been possible without UF’s MPH Program. Another memorable moment is from one of my internships when I was asked to speak and be on a panel at the 2019 Florida Rural Health Association presenting on a white paper I researched and wrote on the status of rural counties vs urban counties in Florida. Lastly, being president of the Public Health Student Association (PHSA) has been a memorable experience as it allowed me to connect with many students, build on leadership skills, and build relationships with organizations from UF and the Gainesville community.

What advice do you have to someone who is interested in this program or someone who is just starting out in this program?
UF’s MPH program and the Gainesville community gave me the knowledge, skills and experience to be accepted into my dream fellowship. If you are thinking about starting the MPH program, do it you will not regret it! There are so many opportunities afforded you during the MPH program, whether your interest are in research or non-research – there is an opportunity for you to build the skills you need to be successful in the future. Take grasp of every opportunity you have to make your learning more wholesome – whether that be research, volunteering, taking a leadership positions in an organization, attending seminars, conferences, professional development workshops, or networking – as this helps to develop you into the best future you. Last but not least, make sure you enjoy the program and make memories and friends during your time here as two years flies by quickly.